Rio G20 meeting must set new tone for trade talks, says Oxfam

Published: 11 September 2006

The meeting of the Group of 20 developing countries, and invited guests this weekend in Rio de Janeiro must reorientate global trade talks towards development, said international agency Oxfam today.

The G20, coordinated by Brazil and India, will be joined in Rio by trade representatives from the EU, US and Japan, plus the World Trade Organization (WTO) boss Pascal Lamy, and delegates from other developing countries. In the two days of meetings, they will attempt to find a way forward for the stalled trade talks.

Following the suspension of negotiations in July, Oxfam says that WTO talks should only restart if rich countries indicate willingness to fundamentally change their attitudes and proposals, and return to the Doha mandate of promoting development. In the meantime, existing pro-development offers must remain on the table including an end to export subsidies, and market access for the poorest countries.

The unity of developing countries, within the G20 and within and between other key groups such as the G33, the African Union and the LDCs will be fundamental to making this happen.

Amy Barry, Oxfam spokesperson at the meeting said: “The Doha talks broke down because of the failure of rich countries to live up to their promises to cut agricultural subsidies and open markets. They will only restart again if rich countries resolve to improve their offers and change the way they negotiate.”

“Rich countries put too much pressure on developing countries in the negotiations to make concessions that would have hurt their development prospects. What was being proposed before the talks broke down was unacceptable and it will remain so until the EU and US see fit to improve their offers and reduce their demands.”

“Developing countries must be allowed to use trade policies to promote development, protect vulnerable sectors and promote fledgling industries. Specifically, they must be able to designate certain key agricultural products as liable to smaller tariff reductions and introduce a mechanism to avoid floods of cheap subsidized imports from rich countries. This should not be balanced by increased protectionism in the North.”

Oxfam also warned about the potentially harmful impact on developing countries of a proliferation of regional and bilateral trade deals between developed and developing countries. Often these negotiations between unequal partners place developing countries in a weaker position. They go way beyond the demands of the WTO and do not address issues of importance to poverty reduction, like subsidies.

Specifically, the EU should stop trying to use Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) as a tool for rapid and indiscriminate liberalization with Africa Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the US must end its drive for aggressive Free Trade Agreements, particularly with Asia and Latin America.

Amy Barry: “The multilateral level is the best place to negotiate new trade rules to promote development. A proliferation of regional and bilateral deals would have drastic implications for the development prospects of poor countries and the well-being of poor people in the South.”

Contact Information

For more information, please contact Amy Barry in Rio: +556184595368 or +447980664397